With a rookie NRL head coach in charge and a couple of big name signings the Roosters could become the surprise of season 2013.
Strengths: After a couple of disappointing, under-performing seasons the Roosters should reap immediate benefit from talented former Warriors playmaker James Maloney. Five-eighth Maloney’s astute attacking brain and strong running game will take a heap of pressure off halfback Mitchell Pearce who has pretty much shouldered the load for the tri-colours since Todd Carney’s inglorious departure in 2011. Pearce copped a barrage of criticism for less-than-stellar form in 2012; in truth though without a co-creative option outside him (no disrespect to long-serving clubman Braith Anasta) Pearce was mostly left to push the plays, often culminating in errors or turnovers. (It should be remembered Pearce excelled for NSW when partnered with Carney.) Few in the No.6 jersey make the impact Maloney does – in particular his ability to puncture opposition defensive lines was unmatched by other pivots in 2012. He also possesses good clearing and attacking kicking games; with Pearce on one side of the field and Maloney calling the shots on the other we expect the Roosters to pose plenty of problems once they hit the red zone.
Although it has yet to be rubber-stamped, Sonny Bill Williams’ arrival will add a hard edge in defence and some serious offloading ability in centre-field and on the edges. When he last graced the NRL arena SBW was somewhat of a revolutionary promoter of the Steeden, his belated offloads catching oppositions off guard time and again. Providing he and his supports limit errors we can see the Roosters posting plenty of points from long range, turning. Williams will no doubt bond strongly with a pack boasting countrymen Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Frank-Paul Nuuausala, as well as backs Shaun Kenny-Dowall and BJ Leilua.
Also, new coach Trent Robinson is a huge plus. Importantly, Robinson was the man in charge of defence as the Roosters stormed through to the 2010 decider; his departure to the Catalan Dragons in 2011-12 coincided with some lacklustre tackling efforts.
Weaknesses: While James Maloney is a plus in the attacking ledger, his suspect defence could be considered a minus. He ranked near the top of all players for missed tackles in 2012 and no five-eighth missed more. They can’t afford to have him develop into a speed hump at Bondi.
Indeed, the Roosters need to develop some red-white-and-blue steel all around the park – they conceded the second-most tries by any side last season. And they need to put a lid on their error count, which was the worst in the 2012 premiership.
However, their biggest vulnerability appears to be their inability to get over the advantage line – incredibly, given the balanced mobility and bulk of their forward pack, the Roosters trudged out the fewest average metres gained this year. And no forward managed triple figures in metres – simply unforgivable in the modern game.
Last, the first half of the season looms as a danger period out wide, with Tautau Moga recuperating from a knee injury. New recruit Michael Oldfield (ex-Manly) should get his chance to shine but will need to hit the ground running.